It took almost 20 years, but Monica Lewinsky finally crossed paths with the man who led the investigation that resulted in President Bill Clinton‘s impeachment and turned her life, she says, “into a living hell.”
In a new essay for Vanity Fair pegged to this year’s 20th anniversary of the White House scandal that made Lewinsky a household name, the former White House intern, now 44, describes the chance encounter at a New York City restaurant this past Christmas Eve as “uncomfortable”—to say the least.
At Gramercy Park restaurant with her family that holiday evening, Lewinsky spotted at familiar-looking man donning a hat.
“At the same moment I stepped toward the Man in the Hat and began to ask, ‘You’re not…?,’ he stepped toward me with a warm, incongruous smile and said, ‘Let me introduce myself. I’m Ken Starr,’” she wrote. “An introduction was indeed necessary. This was, in fact, the first time I had met him.”
Lewinsky writes about coming face to face with the man who “turned my 24-year-old life into a living hell in his effort to investigate and prosecute President Bill Clinton” and who, with his team of prosecutors “hounded and terrorized” not only her, but her family.
“Ken Starr asked me several times if I was ‘doing O.K.’ A stranger might have surmised from his tone that he had actually worried about me over the years,” she recalled. “His demeanor, almost pastoral, was somewhere between avuncular and creepy. He kept touching my arm and elbow, which made me uncomfortable.”
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Lewinsky introduced Starr to her family, writing that she was “a bit thrown” by the surreal run-in, but determined to seize the chance to speak her truth.
“I finally gathered my wits about me—after an internal command of Get it together,” she explained. “‘Though I wish I had made different choices back then,’ I stammered, ‘I wish that you and your office had made different choices, too.’ In hindsight, I later realized, I was paving the way for him to apologize. But he didn’t. He merely said, with the same inscrutable smile, ‘I know. It was unfortunate.’”
In her essay, the activist also addressed how the #MeToo movement changed the way she viewed her relationship with President Clinton, saying the powerful man 27 years her senior had “enough life experience to know better.”
“My hope, given the two decades that have passed, is that we are now at a stage where we can untangle the complexities and context (maybe even with a little compassion), which might help lead to an eventual healing — and a systemic transformation,” she wrote.
Lewinsky’s essay will be appear in the March 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, available on newsstands nationwide March 6.